Monday, 29 June 2009

Magisterium and theology

Luca Badini sent me a long response saying that he did not see any differnce between the procedure of theology and the magisterium, and, besides, that the magisterium should not be identified with any single group in the churc. Two days later, he sent me this shorter note:
I have also found an enlightening passage in Carl F. Starkloff, A Theology of the In-Between: The Value of Syncretic Process (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2002), 82: “With Karl Rahner, Lonergan renounces “Denzinger theology” or a “Christian positivism” of manual theology (330). Each local church must rather, under guidance (the true role of the “magisterium”), make its own progress toward appropriating the authentic truth that doctrine and dogma symbolize. Lonergan, who was never a missionary in the accepted sense of the term, expresses a profound appreciation of the role of mission theology: it must inculcate true “responsibility” in new Christians and local theologians. His words on this point deserve a fuller quotation:

There is much to be gained by recognizing autonomy and pointing out that it implies responsibility. For responsibility leads to method, and method if effective makes police work superfluous. Church officials have the duty to protect the religion on which theologians reflect, but it is up to the theologians themselves to carry the burden of making theological choices as much a matter of consensus as any other long-standing academic discipline (332).

(Note that the rejection of Denzinger theology means the rejection of considering the magisterium as the point of departure of theological investigation, in favour of starting from the sources of revelation in scripture, tradition, and reason--and by dialectically interpreting those sources, reach doctrines. Note that to leave the development of theology to the local church is precisely what is required by subsidiarity).
This is what I replied to Luca:
I have not read all that you have sent, but am responding to your comments above.

It is absolutely true that Lonergan rejected Denzinger theology. One does not quote magisterium and argue to conclusions; that is no longer theology, if ever it was.

In Insight, he did, however, accept the truths of faith (as revealed or as defined by the magisterium) as part of the data of theology. There is a slow migration from this position to placing the starting point of theology in data rather than in truths of faith. I have traced that migration in my book, Hermeneutics and Method. That is certainly Lonergan shaking off his residual classicism and becoming fully methodical by the time of Method in Theology.

But this methodical theology with starting point in data is the procedure of theology. I think Lonergan would still distinguish between the procedure of theology and the procedure that characterizes those who hold official teaching authority in the church. The latter is not the same procedure as the former.

I agree that this doctrine about the distinct magisterial teaching authority is itself one of the doctrines which a methodical theology would 'test' and accept/reject. Nonetheless, it is a doctrine which is distinct in its position from the one you are espousing.

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